No Fusion Confusion

A lawyer working for Singapore Airlines for five years, 36-year-old Willin Low had a passion for cooking.

"Life is too short to do just one thing. I decided to make the switch before I got too used to the lifestyle associated with being a lawyer," Low says.

It wasn't just as easy as that. There were many hefty adjustments that had to be made. For one, his salary as an attorney was more than $7,000 Singaporean dollars a month. When he took a job as a kitchen helper to get experience, his salary was slashed more than 80 percent—to $800 a month.

Low's restaurant, Wild Rocket, is in the Hangout Hotel, nestled in the quiet enclave of Singapore's Mt. Emily Park, and features simple, unfussy modern comfort food. "My cooking style can best be described as fusion, but this word can sometimes lead to confusion. I take the best of the East and the best of the West and I mix them together to make exotic combinations. This is what I call modern Singaporean cuisine."

Many of Low's dishes are inspired by Singaporean street food. Low, a high-energy, willowy man, was recently in New York as part of a "Tastes of Singapore" event, where legendary hawker cuisine was prepared as guests looked on. The country's sentimental attachment to hawker food can be traced to the fact that this was the very first food Singaporeans got to enjoy together in the early days when men came as immigrants to work in the city. Hawker cuisine blends the food of China, India, and the Malay Peninsula, of which Singapore is the epicenter.

Low started cooking while studying in England, because, as a fussy eater, he didn't like the food served in the residence halls, and he invited homesick classmates to join him. He enjoyed cooking so much that even while working as an attorney, he had a chef-for-hire business on the weekends.

"I believe there is a time and a place for food with a recipe that reads like a novel complete with fancy sauces, but you can't eat that on a daily basis," he says. "What I love to eat all the time is simple good food with the best ingredients possible." Low's style is simple and the fresh herbs he uses are grown in his garden, located on the rooftop of the hotel.

Popular with groups, the Wild Rocket can accommodate parties of up to 100.

Originally published Dec. 1, 2008

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